WITH volleyball still not allowed to be played amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Alyssa Valdez has become hooked on a new sport – golf.
But it wasn't love at first sight.
The country's biggest volleyball star has played the sport off and on since 2018, with a hole in one immediately adorning her resume. But she didn't really take it seriously until the pandemic put a halt to team sports.
“Wala talaga akong interest sa golf. Lagi ko lang siya sinasamahan,” said the 27-year old Valdez, referring to boyfriend Kiefer Ravena, on Sunday after a round of golf at Club Intramuros with a couple of sportswriter friends.
“Hindi ko rin siya masamahan (mag-golf) kasi may mga [volleyball] training [ako]. Kapag sinasamahan ko siya sa golf, nasa golf cart lang ako. Eventually, lagi niya rin ako pinapa-try kahit papano kapag nasa fairway.”
She poured more time into the sport during the pandemic, working on her basics with the help of a golf pro while Ravena was away in Clark during the PBA bubble.
With volleyball action paused, golf became a perfect outlet for her competitiveness.
“Nagustuhan ko na eventually kasi mentally, natsa-challenge ako. I think mas nag-focus ako sa golf ngayong pandemic dahil doon namin nalalabas ‘yung competitiveness namin. As in super," she said.
"Kung walang golf, feeling ko mababaliw kami na walang sports.”
As her interest in the sport grew, she was soon joined by former teammates at Ateneo like Bea De Leon. Creamline team owner Jonathan Ng also became a constant golf companion, as were pros like Princess Superal and Daniella Uy.
“Nagiging updated na kami sa golf locally and internationally. Na-inspire din ako sa mga women in golf. May mga friends kami like Princess and Daniella na naa-amaze kami kapag naririnig namin ang storya nila,” she said.
The more she became enamored with the sport, the more she appreciated the hole-in-one she made during her early days as a golfer at the Valley Golf and Country Club.
“Napakatagal na nun,” Valdez said. “Hole number 11, Valley North. Mga 115 (yards) ata. Gamit ko nine-iron. Bigay niya (Ravena) ‘yung pamalo. As in beginner talaga ako… Galit na galit siya sa akin kasi naka-hole-in-one ako [laughs].
“Sobrang sarap pala. Back then, hindi ko siya na-appreciate. I thought hole-in-one is napa-practice din. Nung nag-try na ako ng nag-try ng golf, the more you train, the more you adjust. Sobrang hirap,” she added.
Despite being relatively new to the sport, Valdez is already gaining positive reviews, particularly on her golf swing.
Take a look:
But she reiterated that she still has a lot to learn and pointed to aspects of her game that needs work, mentioning her short game and bunker shots.
“Lagi nilang sinasabi okay daw swing ko. Pero never ako naging consistent. That’s the beauty of golf. The challenge to be consistent and it’s really hard to be consistent unless you train every single day,” said Valdez.
“Nahihirapan ako sa short game. I think that’s one of the struggles, consistency sa short game, bunker shots, at pag may water, psychologically, you have to hit it so hard. Instead of mapaganda mo ‘yung palo mo, nangigigil ka.
"At recently lang naman ako natuto mag-driver. Hindi rin talaga ako magaling."
Alyssa is now totally hooked, and don't expect her to park the clubs when volleyball competition returns. The slow, deliberate pace of the game, the serene environment, will keep her coming back to the fairways.
“Golf is something that makes me calm… Sobrang opposite ng environment [sa volleyball]," said the former Ateneo :Lady Eagles star. "Sa volleyball, very fast. In golf, you have all the time in the world to play. So very calming and relaxing for me.
"Isa sa mga things na kaya ko rin nagustuhan mag-golf is because of that. Kahit minsan, hindi ako pumapalo, sumasama lang din ako kasi sobrang relaxing. When you see greens, parang lagi ka nasa probinsya.”